A study by the Luxembourg Institute of Health (LIH) published in the scientific open-access journal “PLOS One” reports for the first time reliable estimates on the prevalence of dementia and cognitive complaints among seniors in Luxembourg. The researchers determined prevalence estimates of 3.8% (2.8 % to 4.8%) for dementia and 26.1% (17.8 % to 34.3%) for cognitive complaints. Thus, the prevalence of dementia is surprisingly low compared to other countries.
Dr Magali Perquin, researcher at the Epidemiology and Public Health Research Unit of LIH’s Department of Population Health was the project leader of this study which was conducted jointly with the Centre Hospitalier de Luxembourg (CHL) and a number of national and international partners (MemoVie group), and supported by the Luxembourg National Research Fund (Fonds national de recherche, FNR).
The researchers determined that a prevalence estimate of dementia of 3.8%, which is surprisingly low compared to other countries. ‘In comparison, the estimated mean prevalence is 6.4% for Europe, 7.1% for Latin-America and 8% for Canada’, stresses Dr Perquin. She explains further: ‘On the prevalence of cognitive complaints, there are not many field studies yet. A representative Australian study reported memory complaints for 33.5% of its participants. So, here the percentage determined in Luxembourg is also lower. Of course, when analysing and comparing our data, one has to consider that a bias or underestimation cannot be entirely excluded.’
Dr Perquin and co-workers think that the low occurrence of dementia and cognitive complaints among Luxembourg’s seniors is related to the high cognitive reserve observed in the Luxembourg population. ‘Cognitive reserve is a brain resource developed by lifelong challenging cognitive activities’, explains Dr Perquin. ‘People with a high education level or those who practice several languages have a higher cognitive reserve. In Luxembourg the native population is multilingual, as the country has three official languages that are taught at school from the youngest age and intensively used in daily life.’
In a previous study, Dr Perquin and co-workers have shown that multilingualism is strongly associated with protection against cognitive impairment.
The Luxembourg Institute of Health is a public biomedical research organisation. Its mission is to generate and translate research knowledge into clinical applications, with an impact on the future challenges of health care and personalised medicine, all of this with the declared goal of firmly putting Luxembourg on the map of biomedical research. In 2015, the LIH evolved from the hitherto existing public research centre CRP Santé and the Integrated BioBank of Luxembourg (IBBL), fusing the assets and expertise of both institutes into one.
(Source: press release of the Luxembourg Institute of Health / www.lih.lu)